Album Review: John Amadon – Monarchs of the Spukhaus

Nevada-based pop songsmith John Amadon has been releasing albums since 2011, and on his latest Monarchs of the Spukhaus, he brings his style of mellow power pop songwriting to new arenas of lyrical inspiration. Initially started as a semi-tribute to David Lynch’s show Twin Peaks, as the writing process began, Amadon found his lyrics finding influence from other Lynch films, and soon a vast array of art and entertainment meaningful to him. Yet, while some of the influences are very specific, the songs still retain a universal appeal, filled with hummable melodies and crisp arrangements.

The term “jangle rock” or “jangle pop” has been applied to Amadon’s writing, and the type of music that brings to mind certainly falls within the same family tree as the songs on Monarchs. Opener “Poor Teresa” finds Amadon providing sunny harmonies over a classic pop arrangement, with a chipper beat and piano and guitar arrangement.

Amadon notes The Beatles as a key influence on his style, though slightly more recent acts like Big Star and Elliott Smith can both be heard in his approach to vocals. “Entering a Northwest Town” has that Smith style of hushed, tranquil singing that makes for a perfect open road song. But like The Beatles, Amadon isn’t afraid to go in more experimental directions. “Pentacle Mind” still has elegant folk harmonies (echoes of the band America can be heard), but there is a clear jazz influence in the guitar riffs and piano playing.

John Amadon

One can also catch some country flavor, such as on the pedal steel solo on “Without a Doubt”, a track that plays at themes of being true to oneself (“Real friends don’t ask you to pretend”). Knowing that many of the tracks found influence in films and art, it’s hard to say which lyrics, if any, dive into personal territory for Amadon, but there is certainly some vulnerability in the narrator on “Harvest the Clones”, as Amadon sings over a slow, swaying beat “Let me make an entrance, and show me where I’m wrong. I’ve been in the wilderness too long“.

While a few too many of the tracks here sound similar to each other, there are some welcome breaks in the tone and tempo that prevent things from becoming too sleepy. “Lighthouse Keeper” is a striking, electric power pop number with a hint of rock grit that could have been a hit in the 70’s, while “Parable of the Lone Mare” brings in heavier, Black Sabbath-sounding drums for bit of stormy folk-blues. And winning for best title is “Flamethrowers in the Mall”, which breaks out classic rock harmonies for an upbeat jam.

Things close out with the delicate and haunting “Here You Are”, a soothing and dreamy number that ties up the album well. Monarchs of the Spukhaus is a generally chill affair throughout, with mellow melodies that sail you through some beautiful, calm musical waters. The warmth and soul in John Amadon‘s voice will be a welcome companion during your brisk fall days.

Listen to the album here.

Find more info on John here: https://johnamadon.bandcamp.com/

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